Seriously Today – I’m Angry!

Seriously Today – I’m Angry!

by Gina Valley

I’m angry.

Maybe more than angry.

Yes, definitely more than angry.

Yesterday, one of my daughters was the victim of a crime.

Five of my kids and I were out clothes shopping.  My 19 year old son took my youngest kids to wait in our van while I paid for his sister’s clothes, as the line to pay was long and slow. Our van was parked about 20 parking spaces straight out from the front of the store I was in.

My teenage daughter got tired of waiting in line with me, and decided to go wait in our van, too.

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It never occurred to me that it was unsafe for her to walk from the store to our van.  I didn’t even think about it. I couldn’t see her trek from my vantage point, but even if I could have, it would not have occurred to me to monitor it. Her older brother, waiting in our van, had no idea she was on her way, but he, too, would never have thought she needed protecting at that point.

Even now, looking back, it seems impossible that something bad could happen when she had such a short distance to cover in broad daylight, in a shopping center located in a Los Angeles suburb, that has been repeatedly named one of the safest places to live in our nation several times.

But, something bad did happen.

A man followed my daughter almost the instant she left the store. He harassed her, made crude, salacious comments, and tried to touch her. It terrified her. She was nearly running by the time she reached our van, with this man inches behind her.

Her brother, then alerted to trouble, hopped out of our van and started toward the man. The man saw him, and ran off.

When I returned to our van, no one mentioned the incident to me until we were nearly out of the shopping center parking lot.

When someone finally did, I immediately parked, so I could get the whole story.

After making sure my daughter was okay, I drove around the shopping center in an effort to locate this man. If my daughter was not safe, no one else’s was either. I could not just drive off and leave a dangerous situation for the next child who was in that shopping center.

We found the man.

I had my kids stay in the van, and I went to talk to the man. I told the man, who was in his thirties, that he had harassed my young, teenage daughter in that parking lot and that was completely unacceptable.  He spewed out some filth and lies, trying to make it sound like my daughter had sought him out. I reminded him that it is a crime for an adult such as himself to make comments like that to a child or to try to touch anyone.  He again replied with filth and non-sense.

It was clear at that point that he was either mentally ill or under chemical influence. I told him I was going to call the police because he was a danger to children in the area. He said that he did not care. I asked him if I could take his picture. He said, “Yeah, then I can be famous.”

I took his picture, in case he disappeared before the police arrived. I called 911, and the first squad car arrived a couple minutes later. When it did, the man raced into a large store, presumably to hide.

Several more squad cars with multiple officers arrived. They searched the store, found the man, and arrested him.

In the movies, that’s where this kind of story ends. The bad guy goes to jail, where he will be kept until he changes his way. The victim goes home, feeling healed & safe, knowing that the bad guy is gone forever.  Even the police officers feel great about having solved a problem and ensured safety in the kingdom.

But, this wasn’t a movie.

This bad guy will not be kept in jail until he changes his way.

The victim does not feel healed or safe.

The officers involved feel only frustration and futility, knowing the problem is not solved.

And, I’m angry about it. All of it.

I’m angry that I have to think about this.  All of it.  I not only have to consider whether a child is mature enough not to get lost and large enough not to be carried off, but also is he or she protected enough not to be harassed if walking around outside. Our children should be safe because they are children. I’m angry that is not the case.

I’m angry that this man has a very long history of being arrested in that area for similar offenses, which have steadily increased in aggressiveness, and  yet the law that works so well to protect the accused’s rights, does nothing to protect the rights of the innocents, in this case, my daughter.

I’m angry that my daughter must change her behavior to protect herself from this man, but this man does not have to change his. One of the officers told me that he had personally arrested this man at least a dozen times and that I needed to make sure my daughter knew that this man would be back in the area as soon as he got out of jail, so that she can brace herself for that.  My daughter will have to stay away from that shopping center for her own safety, but the man who tried to assault her there will return.

I’m angry I hadn’t taught my daughter to scream, make a scene, and yell for help in that kind of situation. I’m angry it hadn’t even occurred to me that she would ever be in that kind of situation, and would need those kinds of skills.

I’m angry that my daughter has had to relive what was a terrifying experience for her, over and over, as she was asked to give her statement to the officers and detectives. They need her statement to do their job. They need it to protect other people. But, I’m still angry that she had to do that, because of the additional pain and trauma it caused her.

I’m angry that I had to take my daughter to the police station to be photographed and recorded. Officers on the case wisely called in a sex crimes prosecutor for advice on what evidence to collect, so as to have the best chance at convicting this man.

They were told to photograph my daughter wearing the outfit she was wearing at the time, and to record her voice making her statement to be able to demonstrate in court at a later date that she clearly appeared to be a minor at the time. They told me that it’s good she has braces, and that it’s good she doesn’t wear makeup.

Basically, what they were preparing for was a future attempt to blame the victim for this crime. Some lawyer is going to stand in front of a judge and try to convince him that this attack was the victim’s fault, my daughter’s fault.  I’m angry about that.

I’m angry that my daughter must go through a very stressful process in order to protect others from becoming victims in this man’s ever more aggressive string of harassments. It could have been much, much worse. Many have had much, much worse happen to them. That’s why we’re putting in the time and effort to pursue prosecution in this case. This man has a history of arrests, and, according to officials, his actions are becoming more aggressive.  I am angry that it’s so hard to protect other people.

I’m angry because apparently this man has a parent in the nearby area, who is in denial about his mental health issues, and has refused to advocate for him to be evaluated to receive clearly needed mental health treatment. This man is headed for tragedy, his own and possibly that of innocent people around him, too, if he does not receive mental health treatment.

Most of all, I’m angry that something was taken from my daughter that she will never get back.

Every time she walks alone in a parking lot for the rest of her life she will have doubts as to her safety.  She will never again have the innocent, carefree attitude as she walks around in public that she had before that afternoon. She won’t be thinking about what she’s doing with her friends on Friday night or the cute boots she saw in the store window or how excited her brother will be when he opens up the birthday gift she bought him.

Instead, in the back of her mind, and sometimes in the front, she’ll wonder if she’s being followed. She’ll plan how she’ll escape.

I’m angry about that.

Very angry.

Fifteen year olds should be worried about who likes whom and acne and what movie is coming out on Friday night.

They shouldn’t have to think about whether someone is going to hurt them.

But now, sadly, that’s what mine has to think about now.

And, I’m angry.

-gina

How do you handle it when something bad happens to one of your loved ones?  Have you helped a family member through a scary time?  Shoot me a comment. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

Photos courtesy of Stock.xchng – Used with permission
Barb Taub

I can’t possibly say that I “Like” this. But I read every word. Your fury, your daughter’s fear, the future effects are horrible. The knowledge that this will continue until an inevitably horrific conclusion is a nightmare. And when the worst does occur, everyone will ask why he wasn’t stopped earlier.

My sympathy to your daughter and your family. No child should ever have to go through this at all. But to find out that he’s done it before to other people’s children, and will do it again? Nightmare indeed.

gina valley

Thank you for your words of support, Barb. I appreciate them.

I’m holding out hope that somehow this man will get the help that he needs before a tragedy takes place.

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp

Gina,
Like you I am angry. My daughter was witness to a school shooting in Louisville, KY. She had to be questioned by authorities who waved loaded guns in her classroom while they searched for the shooter. I’m angry about that. She had to be evacuated with hands on her head. I’m angry about that. The next few days she had to be confronted by the media who wanted the “story” when she just wanted to go to and from school. I am VERY angry about that. I tweeted angry messages to local media asking them to stop deepening the trauma and to please leave our school! On the day of the shooting, when I was to meet my daughter in a nearby park to sign her out, I was wearing a tee-shirt that read “If you’re going to laugh about it someday, you might as well start now.” I felt so inappropriate. All I could think of was, “I’m never going to laugh about this.”
My world was changed. How do you protect them?
It makes me so angry. and worried. Thank you for posting. I’ve not been able to write about things yet.

gina valley

I am so sorry that your daughter experienced that, Bonnie. It seems to be the norm that these tragedies are worsened by a complete intrusion into the lives of the victims and witnesses. Insult added to injury. Such ridiculousness that it continually goes that way. So unfair for our children. My heart goes out to you and your daughter.

I understand your frustration at being unable to protect your child. It’s beyond frustrating! (((Hugs))) for both of you!

Esther Zale

I just forwarded this to my 15 year old daughter….she doesn’t understand why I worry and have to say “no” occassionally ….look what happened in broad day light in a “safe” environment.

Mothers; guard your daughters.

gina valley

If my daughter’s experience helps to protect even one other potential victim, it’s worth all of the time and effort to pursue this. It’s frightening to try to keep our kids safe. I hope this helps your daughter, Esther.

Bruce Sallan

Gina! I’m so sorry! THANK God your daughter was quick and had her siblings waiting there for her in the van!

I’m angry too because here in California they can’t seem to prosecute ANYONE for ANY crime. That illegal alien that killed TWO police officers in Sacramento had been deported TWICE and is allowed back. Our governor and government here in CA does NOTHING to protect us.

We have a LOON next door who harasses the entire neighborhood. The police have been here dozens of times and can do NOTHING.

One time, one of the sheriffs quietly said to me that if it were HIM, the “problem” would be taken care of.
I don’t have those cajonas but sometimes I wish I did!

You showed BIG ONES in running down that guy – heck, I wish you’d LITERALLY run him down, but then YOU would go to jail ’cause that they’d probably prosecute!

gina valley

Thank you for your support, Bruce. I appreciate it very much.

I’m so thankful that my daughter hadn’t gone to that shopping center alone. I hate to even imagine how much worse things could have turned out.

It is so frustrating that it is so hard to pursue these crimes and to effect any true change. The amount of time we have already had to invest in attempting to get this man convicted of this crime, so that he can be prevented from hurting anyone else, and hopefully get the mental health treatment he needs, is nearly staggering, especially when one considers that the trial hasn’t even started yet.

Teri

Gina this totally sucks!!! I’m going to show this to my own daughters this evening and it pisses me off that I even HAVE to. It infuriates me that the law seems to have its hands tied in situations like this, and that repeat offenders are allowed to roam free and continue to frighten innocent girls. I’m so sorry!

gina valley

I’m right there with you, Teri! It’s so frustrating that it seems like nearly nothing can be done. I hope, if nothing else, my daughter’s experience will help to open the eyes of other potential victims & to keep them safe. Thank you so much for your support!

Heather Johnson

Thank you for sharing this story. I too am angry about the whole situation. Everything that makes you angry makes me angry as well. My daughter is only three, but I am already teaching her how to be safer out in public. Your daughter’s story makes me all the more vigilant.

gina valley

Thank you for reading, Heather! I hope that sharing my daughter’s story will help to protect many potential victims. It is so frustrating to know how hard it is to keep our children safe.

M. E. Franco

What a nightmare. I have a teenage daughter, and there have been several attacks on kids walking to her high school, so I started taking her to school even though it’s close enough for her to walk. It’s ridiculous. It makes me so sad that people are being attacked and victims are blamed, while it seems like the law is always on the side of the criminal. So frustrating. My heart goes out to you and your family.

gina valley

Thank you so much for your words of support, M! I appreciate them so much!
It sounds like you’re doing the best thing for your daughter, but it is so frustrating that you have to do that. It is mind-blowing to me that our children are not safe even walking to school. That just seems doubly wrong.